Don’t break up your text too much!

I’m a big fan of breaking up text with headings and paragraph breaks. But sometimes you can go too far with this, as Roy Peter Clark reminded me in How To Write Short: Word Craft For Fast Times.

If you have an opportunity to make all of your text viewable on one page, consider taking it.

The potential benefit? One of the biggest is that you can quickly decide “whether the topic is worth your time,” says Clark.

Of course, a strong introductory paragraph also makes that possible. What it can’t do is show you the piece’s “beginning, middle, and end all at the same time, helping you sense the logic of the whole,” as Clark says.

Of course, single-glance texts only work in a limited number of cases. As examples, Clark mentions coupons, soup labels, and “advertisements on the outfield wall.” In financial services, a simple webpage might be a single-glance text. Something that requires compliance disclosures isn’t likely to work.

Can you think of cases where you could use single-glance text?


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